9/11 in MarkWorld
I was listening to NPR this morning, as I often do during my AM Dreyfus walks. While they were blathering on about the post-9/11 legacy or whatever, I started thinking about what a bizarre day 9/11 was for me. Every person I've talked to about 9/11 has had a common theme to their story: They talk about the people they were with. Maybe they were at work, and heard about it via the web. Or maybe they were at home and saw it on TV. The locations might be different, but everyone was with friends, family, or coworkers. Me? Uhhhmmm... not quite. Allow me to explain. I spent the spring/summer/fall of 2001 Hiking the Appalachian Trail. It was a marvelous adventure, and probably the biggest growth experience of my life. By early september, I was in New Hampshire and Maine, the most rugged section of the trail. I was travelling with a group of 15-20 folks, some of whom I had been hiking with for 1000 miles. It was a fairly typical A.T. thruhiking crowd... mostly young, and mostly with liberal political tendencies. On September 10th, most of the hikers took a rest day in the sleepy little town of Andover, Maine. The first few miles of Maine had left everyone fairly tired, so nobody was in a hurry to get out of town. But the crowds were getting to me, and I had a lot on my mind. I was starting to think about what I was going to do with my life after my hike was over. So I decided to head out early on the 11th. The owners of the hostel where I was staying took me back to the trail, and I started hiking North. The rest of the folks at the hostel were going to get a ride 15 miles north, then walk back to town carrying only daypacks, then stay another night at the hostel. Sometime around 11:00AM, I saw a single hiker coming the other way. I don't remember the guy's name any more, but he was one of the older guys who was hiking the trail. He stopped me and mentioned that "something happened... we're at war!" but he didn't have any other details. He was hurrying Southbound to get back to town, and thought there would be other people behind him. I grabbed my walkman and tuned to NPR, the only channel I could get in the Southern Maine wilderness. I listened to friggin' NPR for four hours, until my batteries died, and they never gave a single useful piece of information. They had countless blowhard eggheads talking about how "this would affect the American psyche for years" and "define a generation" and all that crap, but they never mentioned what actually happened!! I understand that they didn't know all the details, but I think a simple "if you are just joining us, here is what we know so far" would have been nice. Maybe they assumed everyone already knew. In my journal that night, I was only able to record that "at least one of the WTC towers is down, the Pentagon was hit, and apparently an airplane went down somewhere in PA." Friggin' NPR. When I arrived at my camping spot for the evening, I knew something was seriously wrong. None of the other folks who were at the hostel had passed me in either direction. I didn't know what to do. I had no info, I was 15 rugged miles from the nearest hitchhikable road, and I was starting to feel lonely... not something I experience often. Finally, two other hikers arrived: A young lesbian couple with whom I had been hiking off and on for a few hundred miles. When I asked them if they knew what happened, then said "no", so I told them what little information I had. I forget their exact words, but it was something to the effect of "well, we're out here... that kind of stuff doesn't effect us. And America has had it coming for a while now, anyway." Clearly, these were not the people with whom I could have a discussion about the day's events. I tried to put things out of my head, focus on the lovely weather, and the fact that I was having a splendid adventure. But mostly, I just felt isolated. On the 12th, I hiked fairly hard but didn't make it to the next town. The terrain in Maine made big mileage difficult. I didn't get to a road/town until the 13th, when I bailed for Rangeley, Maine. I found a hotel, turned on the TV, and called my father for some intelligent conversation. Later that day, the other hikers caught up to me. It turns out that I left one shuttle too early. By the time the hostel owners got back from dropping me off on the 11th, the first planes had hit the WTC towers. When they saw the news, none of the other hikers left the hostel. So that's my 9/11 story. I was in the middle of the backcountry in Maine. With two lesbians. Just another day in MarkWorld.